Prime Minister says Commonwealth is “modern, mainstream and practical”

The UK Prime Minister, Rt Hon. David Cameron MP, has delivered a powerful defence of the role of the Commonwealth in a modern, increasingly globalised world during a speech to the 57th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Annual Conference in London.

Mr Cameron spoke on the last day of the international meeting which also marked the CPA’s centennial year.

He told the 600 delegates, representing MPs and Speakers from 52 nations and 175 national, state and territorial legislatures, that as Prime Minister he is often asked if he really believes the Commonwealth to be “modern, mainstream or practical.”

“My answer to all three arguments is ‘yes’. ‘Yes’ it is modern and relevant because we no longer live in a world of super powers but in a world of networks and friendships – and that makes the Commonwealth as relevant as it has ever been,” he said.

“Mainstream? It is not marginal to represent 54 countries, one third of the world’s population and every major religion and ethnic group; and practical? When you think of all the issues we must combat globally: climate change, global poverty, pandemics, famine, achieving success at the Doha round of talks on free trade; it is clear that the Commonwealth is at the very heart of all these debates.”

The Commonwealth passes all the “relevance tests,” Mr Cameron said, a fact reinforced by the reality that more and more nations want to join and the most recent application has recently arrived from South Sudan in the wake of elections.

Mr Cameron added that as Prime Minister of a developed, advanced nation, he is particularly proud that the United Kingdom is one of the few nations worldwide that will keep all its promises about foreign aid spending.

He said that those who criticise the UK’s pledge to assign 0.7 per cent of national income on aid to the world’s poorest people must see that it is more important than ever in the wake of the deepening crisis in the Horn of Africa.

“Yes, at the same time as expanding overseas aid and meeting a target, we are indeed making difficult cuts to domestic budgets, freezing pays in the civil service and this is a big argument we have to have with the British public...but I made a promise. Even if we are having a difficult time, we are one of the world’s richest nations talking about aid to nations where many people live on less than a dollar a day,” he said.

Mr Cameron also acknowledged the need for vigilance and transparency in the delivery of aid, particularly to ensure aid reaches those who need it. Mr Cameron later opened the floor for questions from CPA delegates.

Asked about Britain’s support for a European IMF chief, he acknowledged the shift in economic power globally but said the UK’s support for the French candidate, Christine Lagarde, was taken both because she was the best candidate but due to the critical importance of finding solutions to the current Eurozone crisis.